This week I was called once again for jury duty for the SEVENTH time. Based on discussions with tons of people, this must be close to some sort of record because the only person I found that was even remotely close was a guy around seventy who had been called four times. If you have been called more times than me or know someone who has then let me know as I will congratulate them or give them my condolences whichever is the case.
The most surprising thing about it as that I have been actually chosen, as I was this time, to actually sit as a juror in a case four of this times, twice in Richmond, VA, once in Syracuse, NY and once now in Jacksonville, FL.
It makes me wonder if it isn’t a random choice at all and instead if there isn’t some huge data bank somewhere that has the names of people who tend to be the ones chosen to sit in cases. Or maybe it’s just that I have some particular characteristics that lawyers want when choosing a juror. Who knows but at any rate they keep picking me. Heck they picked me when I was still working in the insurance industry and I had heard it was a sure bet that if you were then you would never be chosen.
I suppose the weirdest part about it is that I honestly don’t mind serving. You get to meet a lot of interesting people, hear some really crazy and weird responses to the questions asked of the potential jurors and take part in a very interesting process that is very much NOT like you see on TV.
And despite what you might have thought if you watched the movie “Jury Duty” with Polly Shore, they don’t generally put you up in a fancy hotel or pay for food and give you a lot of money for your service. In FL you get $15.00 per day and your parking for free and when you’re done they give you a small commemorative pin.
What you do get is the satisfaction of being involved with a pretty cool process that dates way back in time and helps to ensure the rights of the people involved especially the defendants who have a lot to gain or lose from your decision which is a lot more difficult to come to than you might think after weighing all of the facts in the case and listening to testimonies and the presentations of both the prosecuting and defense attorneys. To be honest, it’s actually a bit gut wrenching to come up with any verdict as there is a tendency to second guess your decision afterwards especially if you find the person guilty and even if you feel the evidence was overwhelming “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
It’s also very difficult to stay in focus throughout the entire proceeding especially for a borderline A.D.D person like myself (my wife might differ with the borderline part). Heck, during one trial I was involved in the bailiff slept through a great deal of it and he was getting paid to be there.
It was refreshing this time especially to be serving with a group of jurors that were really focused, took great notes and seemed to all hit on the important facts and details of our case which made my job as foreperson pretty easy. Why was I chosen you might ask? No I didn’t really want it especially as your the one the defendant focuses on. The reason I was chosen was because I had been a juror so often in the past and also the head juror once in the past to boot.
When I left the courthouse last night the officer who was escorting us to our cars, upon hearing I had been called seven times before said, “If I was you I would burn my drivers license”. Well, believe it or not I’m not really concerned about it. First of all I don’t mind serving and secondly, I’m sure they will find me somehow as the odds are in my favor.
Before signing off, there some observations I’ve come away from the experience with that struck me. 1. It was amazing to hear how many cases, even murders go unsolved. 2. It’s astounding and sad that so many people have been intimately either been involved with serious crimes or related to or know someone who has been. 3. I can’t believe people will actually stand up and say the hate the police or the establishment. 4. How many people walk up to try and get a medical release (it seemed like about 20% did so), and how many people return back to their seats (@ 80% of the people who walked up to see the judge). 5. How many people actually are willing to serve and are open minded especially the ones who have a good reason not to be.
So hopefully you don’t come away from this thinking I must have some serious issues since I am so willing to serve (I’m not saying I don’t because the jury is still out on that). I also hope I didn’t scare you away from serving because as I said before it is a real good learning experience as you will not only learn more about our system and get a better appreciation of it, but also because in the process you will probably learn a lot more about yourself. I know I have.
My only regret about serving this week was that there were good waves yesterday that I missed out on. Oh well, at least I caught a really good swell down in Cocoa Beach last week.
Take care, have a great week and God willing and if the sun rises I will look forward to seeing you here again next time.